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Triple window

  • Place of origin:

    France (north, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1175-1200 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved limestone

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with Art Fund support

  • Museum number:

    A.47-1937

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 8, The William and Eileen Ruddock Gallery, case EXP

These windows come from a house at Trie-Château, near Gisors, about 30 km from Beauvais, France. They were discovered in 1936 during the demolition of an old house close to the church of Trie-Château.The windows consist of a series of three arched openings which are supported on columns. These columns are topped with decorated, foliate capitals. Limestone was used for the windows, as it is a strong stone for detailed work, and also good for polishing, which was very widely used by sculptors during this period for both secular and eccesiastical work.

Place of Origin

France (north, made)

Date

ca. 1175-1200 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved limestone

Dimensions

Weight: 5381 kg, Weight: 5424 kg including stone base

Object history note

These windows come from a house at Trie-Château, near Gisors, about 30 km from Beauvais, France. They were discovered in 1936 during the demolition of an old house close to the church of Trie-Château. M. Seligmann acquired them shortly after and sold them to the V&A. Examples of secular architecture from this period are rare (for other surviving examples see P. Williamson, 'Catalogue of Romanesque Sculpture', V&A publication, London, 1983, p. 42).

The windows consist of a series of three arched openings which are supported on columns. These columns are topped with decorated, foliate capitals. In each arch is a tympanum with two small pointed arches carved in relief, within which are carvings of mythological beasts. On the far right is a centaur engaging in combat with a cockatrice (also known as a basilisk). A cockatrice is a fabulous reptile-bird hatched by a serpent from a cock's egg. The centaur is about to launch an arrow from his short-bow at the cockatrice, which will be his last chance at survival, before the cockatrice blasts him with its deadly stare and breath. The centaur is depicted wearing a 'Phrygian' cap of the sort worn by peasants, but also, interestingly, archers and light infantry or levied militiamen across Europe during this period. Limestone was used for the windows, an ideal and strong stone for detailed work, and also good for polishing, which was very widely used by sculptors during this period for both secular and eccesiastical work.

Limestone is composed mainly of calcium carbonate, much of it sedimentary and formed by fossil deposits. The next three reliefs, going to the left, are of sirens eating men, while the last two on the left-end seem to show men devoured by some sort of sea-monster.

Historical context note

The carving of the reliefs seen here is classsic Romanesque: the subject-matter is imaginative, surreal, and the quirky sense of humour is still alive here in the sculptor's work that characterizes earlier medieval carving. The work is busy and highly-stylized. Although individual reliefs are full and crowded considerable space around the carving is left unworked and plain - this is just what we would expect of Romanesque architectual sculpture, just as it is no surprise to see busy reliefs here edged with simple unfussy surrounds decorated with non-figuarative designs like chevrons repeating between incised lines. Hair, eyes and facial details are etched into the surface of the stone, almost in the manner of drawing, rather than bringing features out of the stone in full three-dimensional carving, which begins to gain favour from the end of the era we know as Romanesque.

Descriptive line

A triple window carved in limestone from a house at Trie-Château, near Gisors, Northern France, ca. 1175-1200

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

P. Williamson, Catalogue of Romanesque Sculpture, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1983, cat. no. 19
de l'Eglise, Marquis F, 'Sculptures romanes récemment découvertes à Trie Château' in Mémoires de la Société Historique et Archéologique de l'Arrondissement de Portaise et du Vexin XLVII, 1938, pp.165-67.
Henwood-Reverdot, A. L'église Saint-Etienne de Beauvais. Beauvais, 1982, p.153.
cf. Novelles Acquisitions du Département des Sculptures, 1980-1983 Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1984, cat. no. 2, pp.16-17.
Williams, J.P. Sculptures médiévales du Musée Carnavlet. paris, 1979, pl. 1, p.13.

Materials

Limestone

Techniques

Carving

Subjects depicted

Arches; Mythological beasts; Tympana; Centaurs

Categories

Architecture; Sculpture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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